20:25 GMT24 February 2021
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    After more than ten days of chaos, India’s federal ministry of electronics and information technology (MeitY) had a virtual meeting with Twitter officials. India's government criticised Twitter for not complying with its requests to block some accounts that were allegedly stirring up dissent during the farmers' protests.

    India's Minister of IT and Communications Ravi Shankar Prasad has accused microblogging platform Twitter of double standards while dealing with riot incidents in the US Capitol and New Delhi. The minister said that India will not accept such a prejudiced approach from any global tech giant and they have to follow the law of the land if they want to work in the country.

    "We have warned Twitter, in a dialogue with them. Why, when the police had to deal with rioters at the US Capitol did Twitter side with the law enforcement officers but opposed Indian authorities when a similar riot was taking place at the Red Fort," Prasad asked on Thursday in the Upper House of Parliament.

    The minister said that he and cabinet colleague Prakash Javadekar are revising the social media guidelines.

    "You cannot spread hate messages such as that the Prime Minister is harassing farmers... When you are a platform do you make your own law and take no account of India's laws? That is not how it works," Prasad said condemning social media and it's apparently fluid guidelines.

    Prasad took issue with those parliamentarians who said that the government is curtailing the freedom of speech, and in his Rajya Sabha (Upper House) address reminded colleagues in opposition that the present government of India is led by those who fought for the freedom of the press during the emergency imposed by the Congress leader Indira Gandhi's government from 1975 to 1977. 

    In a message for social media platforms Prasad highlighted that freedom is important, but showing revenge sex videos, street fights, porn videos and family issues on social media is unacceptable.

    The minister said that his government respects criticism but social media can't be used to propagate hate.

    "We respect India's electoral process and if anyone uses social media to influence elections, strict action will be taken. Whether it be Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn - I have a message for all of you - come, work in India, earn money but you will have to follow India's laws," Prasad emphasised.

    The statement comes a day after the top officials at India's Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology reminded Twitter that lawfully passed orders from India are binding on business entities such as itself – talking about the list of more than 2,000 accounts the Government had asked Twitter to block in recent days. Ajay Sawhney, secretary in the ministry, also told Twitter that “freedom of expression” is not absolute and is subject to “reasonable restrictions”.  

    When a journalist questioned the US State Department's spokesman Ned Price on India’s statement on freedom of expression, his reply was in favour of “democratic values”, which seemed like a subtle inclination towards Twitter.

    "We are committed to supporting democratic values, including freedom of expression. I think when it comes to Twitter’s policies, we’d have to refer you to Twitter itself," Price said.

    What Was Discussed at the Meeting Between India and Twitter

    Comparing Twitter’s line of action after the violence at the US Capitol with the “delayed” steps it took after the New Delhi violence of 26 January, Sawhney summed it up with the word “inadequate”. 

    After the US Capitol riots, Twitter suspended the accounts of major public figures including that of former US President Donald Trump

    The other topics of concern that were raised by the ministry included the protest toolkit that was tweeted and later deleted by Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg. The ministry said Thunberg’s toolkit tweet testified that a solid social media campaign around farmers' protests were brewing outside India and Twitter was one of its platforms for mobilisation – the IT ministry called it “unacceptable’”. Presently, the document is being investigated by the Delhi Police.

    Twitter officials confirmed their commitment to following India's laws and rules while requesting for better engagement between India's government and Twitter’s global team.

    As of now, Twitter has blocked or withheld more than 500 accounts that were part of the list of 2,000 accounts sent to it by the Indian government. 

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